Monday, February 27, 2012
The long winding road to Emmaus: A retelling of an ancient story
Sometimes in the midst of the trials and burdens of life, we lose sight of the idea of an anchor. We feel tossed and thrown as on a wild and restless sea. Our emotions tell us that things will never be good, all will be despair and loss. Our hope seems shipwrecked, our desire to go on in life sinks into depression. We see nothing good, only evil all around us. Our enemies (both physical and spiritual) seem to have the upper hand, they seem to be winning the day. The victory we felt sure would come has not yet manifested itself, and we feel ourselves sinking ever deeper into a pit in which we cannot get the proper traction to climb. The clock is ticking down, our hope is gone, our day is over, and Christ has not come.
Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, we had hoped that Jesus would be the one who would rescue us all. We had fervently prayed that maybe, just maybe, today would be the day when we would “live happily ever after” and find our dreams coming true. We shake our heads and go out for a walk. Maybe some fresh air and a quick walk will clear out the cob webs in our minds. Still, the topic of our recent failure hangs like a cloud over our heads, raining down doubt and fear.
We chat quietly together, commiserating a bit in our sorrow, in our recent loss. We try to remember all the "good reasons" we came to this time--like the first time we heard the story of Jesus, or the first time we met him, or even when we experienced firsthand some of his cool deeds. Still, sorrow clings to our soul like a wet coat in a sudden thunderstorm. We can't get rid of the sense of sadness, it is drenched on us and stick to our bodies. We wonder why we even brought the subject up and continue to make our journey in silence. Maybe time with our thoughts will help.
Suddenly, a stranger approaches. He seems rather ignorant of our experiences, and besides that he has a fairly sunny disposition. He is definitely someone we want to avoid at this moment. No pie in the sky false hope will satisfy us. We fear that he will say something like, “Cheer up! Keep a stiff upper lip! Things will work out in the end!” We try to avoid the stranger, yet he resolutely comes our direction. He seems determined to interrupt our brooding, our despair. He is on a mission, and we seem to be his primary targets. We try to ignore him, but then he speaks.
“So, what’s going on? Why the sad face?” Out of pure human kindness we try to explain our pain in as brief a manner as possible. We do not want to burden strangers with our “little” concerns, after all. The stranger hears our story and stands tall. Looking at us he says boldly, “Foolish ones, slow of heart to believe what God has said!”
The force of his accusation causes us to stumble in our walk. How dare this stranger tell us our business? How dare he interject his thoughts into our moment of pain, our sorrow? Just who does he think he is to interrupt our musings with his “pollyanna” announcement? We look at him with disdain and think that he likely has nothing of real value to offer.
Then, he begins to speak to us again. Starting with the beginning of our story and bringing us pretty much up to date he tells us things we knew but somehow in our anguish had forgotten. As he speaks, our hearts get a bit lighter. We can literally feel a burning inside that slowly (painfully slowly) begins to purify our thoughts and hearts. His words seem to dry the wet sorrow drenching us. Like sunshine after a thunderstorm, we begin to feel a bit of relief. Spring may yet come! We even feel encouraged (a little at least) .
We invite the stranger to eat with us, and he offers to say grace. As he prays, we realize his true identity. He is our Lord, the one who was beaten brutally, was painfully crucified, who died with the full weight of our sin upon his broken and bruised body. He has been there all along, listening to us, sympathizing (or is it empathizing?) with our pain and anguish. He has been waiting to comfort us with his presence. He loves us so.
We beg him to stay. Oh, the situations of our life haven’t changed dramatically. We still have problems, and those problems seem just as depressing and burdensome as before. The difference is that we have Jesus in the house, and the light of his love gives us courage to press on, he becomes an anchor for our souls. Why? Simply stated—“Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Through him and his love we may not have better situations or circumstances, but we can still be “more than conquerors through him who loved us” in the trials we share as his joint heirs. How? Talk to him. Let him love you. Trust his character. He is faithful even when we are faithless. You matter to him.
He longs to say to you "Hang in there. I love you."
As you walk your soggy path of life, pause and wait for the Lord. Let him catch up to you in your musings. Listen to his words (even the ones that gently rebuke). Get in his presence, let him pray for you and with you. Let his words and actions encourage and empower. Remember, he walks with us whether we acknowledge him or not. Why not sit in his presence for a minute and acknowledge his care for you?
Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Interesting Quote on the Inspiration and Durability of Scripture
I was looking for some material for a lecture on the reliability and uniqueness of Scripture, and I came across the following long quote by H. L. Hastings. From what little research I've done (tonight, thanks Google), this could be a quote from a book by Hastings on the inspiration of Scripture. At any rate, here is what I found, and I thought you all might enjoy it:
Nineteenth century writer H.L. Hastings once forcibly illustrated the unique way in which the Bible has withstood the attacks of its skeptics:
“Infidels for eighteen hundred years have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet it stands today as solid rock. Its circulation increases, and it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. Infidels, with all their assaults, make about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer would on the Pyramids of Egypt.
When the French monarch proposed the persecution of the Christians in his dominion, an old statesman and warrior said to him, ‘Sire, the church of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.’ So the hammers of infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the hammers are worn out, and the anvil still endures. If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago. Emperors and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still lives.
No other book has been so chopped, knived, sifted, scrutinized, and vilified. What book on philosophy or religion or psychology or belles letters of classical or modern times has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? With such venom and skepticism? With such thoroughness and erudition? Upon every chapter, line and tenet? The Bible is still loved by millions, and studied by millions.”
Thanks for reading!
Friday, February 03, 2012
ETS Paper: Print and Recording
I finally put the finishing touches on the paper I read at the annual Evangelical Theological Society meeting in San Francisco in November 2011. The paper's title is "Confidence in Christ and the Sin Unto Death: When Should a Christian Not Pray" and deals with 1 John 5:13-21. Here is a link to see the pdf file: Paper. For those who want to hear a recording of it, here is that link: Recording. Your comments are welcome! Thanks for reading and listening!